Many people would consider dance a workout in itself. However, in order to be at your best as a dancer, there’s some preparation required off the stage as well. Some dancers appreciate a good workout to help keep them in shape but also to keep their muscles limber and strong. While everyone has a different workout they prefer, some moves are classic, especially barre exercises.
While there are several different types of barre classes dancers can take to keep in shape, Physique 57 is currently one of the best in the business. Several celebrities have tested out this class, including Chrissy Teigen. The classes are modeled off of the Lotte Berk Method, a tried-and-true method created in the ’50s and used by dancers all over the world. If you’re looking to stay toned and lean off stage, use these moves from Physique 57 to help you stay in shape, according to Dance Spirit magazine.
Have you tested out these barre exercises?
1. The Curtsy
This exercise helps work your thighs, improves your balance and tones your core and back. If you’ve ever done ballet, you know this move pretty well. For this exercise you will need a sturdy chair to use for balance. Begin in plie form in first position. Make sure you feel comfortable, not awkward or strained.
Place your hands on the back of the chair and lean the top part of your body forward, keeping your back straight, until you reach a 45-degree angle. Once you’re in this position, lift your right heel off the floor and slide it to your left side behind your body, so that it aligns with your left shoulder.
Slowly begin to lower yourself to the ground, making sure to keep your hips and your shoulders aligned. Begin to do 30 to 60 pulses in this position, and then switch to the other leg. If you really want to test your strength and your muscles, try this position even lower to the ground.
“Barre classes are modeled off the Lotte Berk Method, used by dancers all over the world.”
2. The Deli Slicer
Even though this workout has a funny name, these moves help tone and strengthen the obliques, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Begin lying down on your right side with your arm stretched upward beneath your head.
Place your left palm on the ground near your chest to help keep yourself balanced. Pull your knees toward your chest until you reach a 90-degree angle. Keeping your legs together, lift your feet off the ground with your knees staying on the floor.
From this position, push your left leg outward until it’s straight. Try to reach as far as you can go without straining yourself. Then bring your leg back in, returning to the initial position. Complete this move 15 times slowly, followed by 20 times quickly. Then switch sides. If you think about the motion of your legs, it should look like a deli slicer.
3. The Superwoman
This exercise is great for the core and can help tone your abdominal muscles. You will need a cushion and a ball to perform this move. Begin sitting on the ground. Place some type of cushion – whether it’s a yoga mat or a pillow – behind your lower back for support.
Once it’s in place, start to lower yourself onto it, making sure to keep your arms, head and neck upright. Place your feet on the ball, keeping your toes pointed forward. Make sure your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms are outstretched forward.
Inhale inward and place your arms overhead so that your body is entirely on top of the cushion and your legs are completely straight, with your feet still resting on the ball. Return to the initial position.
Repeat this process between 30 and 60 times, depending on your strength. Make sure you don’t sit all the way up on the return, as that won’t work your muscles as strongly.
4. The Pretzel
This exercise helps stretch your hips, strengthen your waistline and tone your gluteus maximus. Start this exercise sitting on the ground, with your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your right leg at a 90-degree angle behind your back. Try to push your right thigh as far back as it’s willing to go. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg to improve stability.
Tighten your core, point your toes and lift your right leg off the floor and move it up and down between 20 and 30 times, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees.
Then, repeat the position but extend your leg and keep your foot flat for another 20 to 30 repetitions.
Rest and relaxation may be tempting during the warm weather, but dance students who are serious about staying in shape and being ready to excel come fall need to stay active to maintain their muscle tone, flexibility and endurance. Here are some tips on cross-training for dancers that studio owners and dance teachers can pass onto their students.
“Summertime indulgences can set dancers back.”
Benefits of Cross-Training for Dancers
If students are going to truly commit to cross-training, they need to understand its importance. One of the big benefits of cross-training during the summer is that it will help dancers stay in shape. Week after week of lounging around the house, hanging at the pool and indulging at summertime cookouts can set dancers back if they don’t keep up their activity levels. Dedicated students should be working to maintain muscle strength and flexibility while also improving trouble areas.
While these short-term goals are important, there are also some bigger benefits of cross-training for dancers. Students who are consistently engaging in activities outside the studio often are less prone to injuries and can push past training obstacles faster than dance-focused peers.
Activity Options for Dancers
So does this mean your students should spend their vacations in the gym? Not at all! There are many different methods of cross-training that will appeal to even the most reluctant dancers. David Popoli, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, explains that there are activities that allow dancers to express their artistic side while still giving them a great workout.
Yoga and Pilates
As Popoli mentioned, yoga and Pilates are great summertime activities for dancers. These low-impact activities will help students improve their flexibility, control their breathing and target specific muscle groups. You may want to see if a group of your dedicated dancers are willing to take a yoga class in the studio over the summer – hosting an instructor is a great way to bring in a little extra revenue during the slow season.
Another viable option is weight training. Many females are hesitant to lift weights, as they don’t want to end up with big bulky muscles. However, when done correctly, weight training can be extremely beneficial to dancers.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about weight training,” Emery Hill, athletic trainer at Houston Ballet, explained to Dance Spirit magazine. “People think that if you lift weights, you’ll get big musculature. But it can be very beneficial as far as being able to lift or be lifted, or to hold your position, because you have more basic strength.”
Encourage your dancers to work on their cores, biceps and legs by lifting weights. Three sets of each exercise with eight to 10 reps is the perfect amount to keep them looking long and lean while still building up strength.
When the weather is simply too nice to stay inside, dancers can continue their training with outdoor sports. Students who want a full-body workout can try swimming laps at their local pool. This activity doesn’t put any pressure on the joints, but it can really get your heart pumping, helping improve endurance.
Biking is a good choice for dancers who want to build up their leg strength. Encourage your students to ride in low-resistance areas – like flat stretches of land – so their leg muscles stay trim.
If you’re looking for a way to switch up the dance warm-up for your class, consider incorporating some yoga poses into your routine. Yoga is great for flexibility and balance, and it also relieves stress and helps kids to focus. Here are some of the benefits dancers can gain from practicing yoga and some of the best poses to warm up with.
Why dancers should be yogis
Almost every type of dancer, from ballet to hip-hop, can benefit from regular yoga practice. ISport explained that one of the biggest gains will be in flexibility. Yoga can help young dancers target their problem areas and keep those muscles lean. It’s a great practice for impatient young dancers, because yoga poses can gradually stretch muscles and prevent tears. ISport also pointed out that yoga is a great way to build upper body and core strength. Warming up with yoga is helpful in teaching students proper breathing techniques as well. Yoga emphasizes deep breaths from the diaphragm that won’t alter the alignment of the spine and ribs.
Best poses for warm up
To best incorporate yoga into your class warm up, start with some deep breathing exercises. Encourage your students to relax and focus on their breathing. This will help them to shake off distractions and release stress they’re carrying. You’ll probably want to move through a few basic poses – forward bends, downward dog, plank – to get them started. Once you feel everyone is ready, try these poses together.
Big Toe Pose: In this variation of a forward fold, you’ll keep your legs as straight as possible and grab your big toes with the index and middle fingers of each hand. Have students alternate between pressing their chest to their thighs and stretching up into a table-top position. YogaWiz explained that this is a great exercise to stretch the hamstrings and calves.
Triangle Pose: Begin with your feet about three feet apart, with one foot facing forward and the other perpendicular to it. With arms outstretched, move your torso toward the front-pointing foot, then reach down with your front hand and rest it on the floor or your calf, and extend the top arm toward the ceiling. You’re stretching the front and back of your legs with this pose and also opening up your hips and chest, according to YogaWiz.
Tree Pose: This is a great balance exercise that kids will enjoy. Stand with your feet together, then draw one leg up and place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh or calf – getting your leg up high isn’t super important, but don’t place your foot on or near the knee. If you want an extra challenge, raise both arms above your head. Make sure to switch legs to optimize the stretch and open your hips.